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Walking - scale approach?

Discussion in 'General Instruction [BG]' started by DrVenkman, May 5, 2010.

  1. DrVenkman


    Jan 22, 2010
    Pacific NW
    I'm working through "Building Walking Bass Lines" by Ed Friedland (big thumbs up). I'm nearly through part one, and while I can't say the bass lines I create sound as good as the ones Ed provides as samples, I'm understanding it and am making definite progress.

    Last night I took a look at the exercise on using the scale tones as approach notes. Problem is, I don't understand WHAT scale to use.

    I kind of assume if I'm playing blues in B flat, I'd use the B flat major scale more or less regardless of what the chord is. That's based on the idea that the chord also contains notes that are in the B flat scale (I know just enough to know that this probably isn't true for modal music, but I'm willing to ignore that for now). Is this correct or am I way off?
  2. ()smoke()


    Feb 25, 2006
    i'm not by any means proficient or well-educated on walking bass, but when i do it, i outline the chord progression rather than play within a scale, so with a blues I-IV-V progression, i'd approach the roots of the chords from below or above by walking up or down to them...
  3. kreider204


    Nov 29, 2008
    As a default for a blues progression, use mixolydian for 7 chords, dorian for m7. So:

    Bb7: Bb mixolydian
    Eb7: Eb mixolydian
    F7: F mixolydian
    Cm7: C dorian
    Gm7: G dorian (though I tend to avoid the E - clashes with the key center a bit)
  4. DrVenkman


    Jan 22, 2010
    Pacific NW
    OK, let me give a specific example. Assume it's a blues in F. Current measure is on a C chord, next bar is the B flat. I want to hit the root (the B flat) on the first beat of the next bar. If I'm using the scale approach to get to that B flat target, what scale do I use?

    F major, since the song is in the key of F?
    C major, since that's the chord for the current measure?
    B flat major, since that's the chord I'm approaching?
    Or something else entirely?
  5. Ed Fuqua

    Ed Fuqua

    Dec 13, 1999
    Chuck Sher publishes my book, WALKING BASSICS:The Fundamentals of Jazz Bass Playing.
    Don't think in terms of scale, think in terms of chord quality. If the first chord in your blues is a Bbmaj7 (Bb D F A) then , sure Bb major is going to work OK. But if it's a Bb7 (Bb D F Ab) then, no it's not going to work.

    I don't really like to think in terms of scales for pretty much anything. I like to think of a walking line as a quarter note melody that is defining the harmony AND driving the harmony forward, if you are playing from an exclusively scalar approach you get forward movement but you don't define the harmony, if play from an arpeggiating standpoint, you define the harmony but it gets nailed down and you don't have the same propulsive drive. Not to be unduly self promoting, but I have an approach that I like and outline in my book. If you go to the link and check out the sample pages, ALL of those are approaches to playing a blues progression.
  6. kreider204


    Nov 29, 2008
    You use the scale of the chord you are currently playing, not the one you are approaching. And again, if it's a Bb7, then you use mixolydian, not major.
  7. DrVenkman


    Jan 22, 2010
    Pacific NW
    Scale of the chord I'm currently playing - that's what I was looking for. krieder204 got it (and thanks for the clarification on mixolydian vs. major scale - next thing to learn). The problem is I'm new enough to all of this that it's hard to ask the question clearly. Thanks to all that replied.

    Next question is whether or not to use the scale approach, but that's a different topic. I want to make sure I understand the approach first.
  8. kreider204


    Nov 29, 2008
    Ultimately, I think Ed's right - it's better to think in terms of chord tones and passing tones rather than scales. BUT, sometimes that amounts to the same notes being played, and the scale approach is a bit earlier to tackle first. Also, knowing the scales makes it easier to thinking about chord tones and (especially) passing tones, so it's a good place to start.
  9. DrVenkman


    Jan 22, 2010
    Pacific NW
    I'm actually pretty good on chord tones (although I still have to think too much on some of the more complex forms); it's the passing tones that cause trouble. To use the terms from Ed's book I completely get and can use the chromatic and double chromatic approaches, and like them, but wasn't getting how to use the scale approach to select the passing tones.

    Now I at least understand what I need to learn for that approach. Thanks again.
  10. kreider204


    Nov 29, 2008
    You bet - have fun!
  11. 98dvl


    Jan 31, 2002
    The biggest thing that has helped me in this realm (figured it out while trying to decipher Carol Kaye's material) is to understand chordal scales.

    You probably understand that a C major chord is made up of notes from the C major scale. C, E, G (i.e. the Root, 3rd, and 5th from the C major scale). So, think of a C major scale as using the notes from the chord (C, E, G, C). If you were going to play just four notes on that bar, you couldn't go wrong with the four listed above. You can throw in some passing tones (from the C major scale) to make things a little more interesting if you want.

    Likewise, when playing over a C7 chord (which is composed of the notes C, E, G, Bb - Root, 3rd, 5th, minor seventh). So, again, if you wanted, you could just play these notes over that chord, and sound fine. Again, you can throw in some passing tones to make it more interesting.

    Here's a good site on chordal scales (and other good theory):

  12. MglMatador


    May 5, 2010
    Here's how I think about it.

    You are playing a blues in F7 (or more appropriately within a F7 chord structure). You have any note selection within this scale that is going to work (noting the flatted 7th):

    F G A Bb C D Eb F

    However your job as a bass player is to help outline the chord that is being played. So you will end up preferring the notes that outline the chord, especially when they are not being inferred by the others playing along with you:

    F G A Bb C D Eb F

    The next thing to think about is what is coming next in the chord progression. Starting on F7, you have the following I-IV-V progression:

    F7 - Bb7 - C7

    So if you are in the middle of the first measure playing within an F7 chord, you are going to want to resolve to the Bb7 chord, and your walking line should lead the listener to that chord.

    Keeping that in mind, you might construct something like a chromatic progression leading to the root of the Bb7 chord (played in quarter notes in the first measure, for example):

    F - A - C - B - Bb

    Descending down from C (the fifth of the F7 chord) leading down to the Bb that your ear naturally wants to hear. :)

    Those are just a few ideas. I find that all of the intermediate notes are secondary to giving direction to the other players (and the listeners) and implying what comes next in the progression. Also keep in mind that often the piano and guitar players are playing root-less voicings or alternate forms for the fundamental chords, often leaving nobody giving the solid roots, thirds, and fifths, flatted seventh's, etc.

    So now that you have resolved to the Bb7 chord, where are you going to go next? Perhaps back down to the F7 (I) chord. So, let's try a chromatic progression back down:

    Bb - A - Ab - G# - F

    Notice that some of those notes are technically 'illegal', but it doesn't matter because it's leading you back down to the I chord, which resolves naturally. In fact most of the half-step resolutions sound really nice when played in context.

    So try this line as the start to a I - IV - V 12 bar progression and see what I'm talking about (all quarter notes).

    (F7) : F - A - C - B
    (Bb7) : Bb - D - F - C
    (F7) : F - F# - G - C
    (F7) : F - G - A - B
    (Bf7): Bb - Bb - B - B
    (Bf7) : C - D - Eb - E
    (F7) : F ......

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